What is the fashion and beauty industry?
While it might seem all glitz and glamour, the fashion and beauty industry is more than just a pretty face – it’s seriously big business. Covering everything from clothes and bags to hair and make-up, there are a wide range of jobs available for people with all kinds of different skills, from strutting down a catwalk in the latest trends to running your own salon. So whether you’re artistic with a flair for design or a business-minded entrepreneur, fashion and beauty could provide the ideal career for you.
The fashion industry alone is worth around £21 billion to the UK economy and the fashion world provides jobs for more than almost 800,000 people, making it the one of the biggest employers in the UK. And, as there’s always a new trend following hot on the heels of the last, there will always be new opportunities to make your mark in this exciting, fast-paced industry.
The beauty industry also provides a huge range of jobs across the country, from hair stylists to cosmetic scientists who bring us the latest make-up technology and hopefully, one day, a truly waterproof mascara....
What fashion and beauty jobs can I do?
For fashion retail jobs, check out our career zone on retail and merchandising.
- Fashion designers: Work for high street retailers as well as designer labels, working the latest catwalk trends into cutting edge and affordable fashion, from sports shoes to party dresses.
- Beauty therapists: Provide face and body treatments for clients to help them look and feel good, from manicures to waxing. Some may choose to specialise in more advanced techniques such as aromatherapy, using essential oils to lift the mood.
- Dressmakers: Create made-to-measure clothes such as dresses, skirts and trousers for their customers. Some specialise in a particular type of clothing, like bridalwear. Tailors create bespoke suits, jackets and coats for men and women.
- Cosmetic chemists: Create and test new cosmetic products and update existing ones. They might develop a moisturiser that reduces the appearance of wrinkles, a lipstick that stays put for longer, or mix fragrances for a new perfume.
- Hairdressers: Cut, colour and style customers' hair to create the look they want. They could work in a salon or have a mobile business visiting customers' homes. Some might go on to work in film or TV.
- Makeup artists: Apply makeup for people appearing in front of a camera or a live audience. They work in film and theatre as well as for fashion shows and photographic sessions. And they may apply special effects and prosthetics, such as fake blood and false noses.
- Fashion photographers: Take pictures of models wearing the latest clothes, accessories, make-up and hairstyles. They take them in a studio or "on location", and the images are used in magazines, adverts and catalogues.
- Models: Show off clothes and accessories to customers and the media. They might model in fashion shows, or in photographs for magazines, catalogues, newspapers and advertising campaigns.
- Spa therapists: Work in a spa setting, such as a day spa or resort spa. They provide a range of treatments including massages, body wraps and body scrubs designed to give their clients a feeling of well-being.
- Fashion PRs: Responsible for representing a fashion brand to the public. For more about jobs in PR check out our career zone on advertising, marketing and public relations.
- Fashion journalists: Report on the latest news and trends in the world of fashion for magazines, newspapers and websites. They could also write for PR firms and trade publications. Have a look at our publishing and media career zone for more about jobs in journalism.
Is a career in fashion and beauty for me?
If you follow trends religiously, pore over glossy magazines, and love to make yourself, and others, look and feel good, then a career in fashion and beauty could be the perfect choice for you.
The wide choice of careers available within fashion and beauty means people with all different kinds of skills can find a job that suits them. But for most, careers in fashion and beauty you’ll need to be able to think creatively and have a good eye for colour and design. You’ll probably spend a lot of time working with others, so you’ll need good people skills and to be able to present yourself well too.
Be warned, fashion and beauty jobs can be highly competitive and involve lots of long hours and hard work. But if you're determined, confident and not afraid of a bit of grafting then you can find a rewarding and varied career.
Still not sure whether a career in fashion and beauty is for? Have a read of our interview with a fashion and costume designer and see if it helps you decide whether the industry is for you.
How can I start a career in fashion and beauty?
With so many different jobs available, there are a number of ways to get into fashion and beauty. Some careers will require formal qualifications, while others – for example, working as a model – may not.
As competition for jobs can be fierce, showing a passion for your chosen career and making good contacts can be as important as gaining the right qualifications. This could mean finding work experience at a salon or putting together a portfolio of photographs you’ve taken or clothes you’ve designed, so start thinking about this now!
Relevant A-levels include fashion and textiles, and art and design. BTECS are available in areas including beauty therapy, introduction to hair and beauty, fashion and textiles, and fashion and clothing. Many colleges will offer full- and part-time courses in areas such as dressmaking, pattern-cutting, beauty therapy and hairdressing. And you may find opportunities to train on the job, for instance in a hair salon, with a day release to attend college.
Apprenticeships can provide another way into working in fashion and beauty. For instance, the Fashion Retail Academy provides apprentices in fashion retail & business administration. And The Fashion and Textiles Group Training Association runs a range of intermediate and advanced apprenticeships, from pattern cutters and dressmakers to footwear designers and knitting technicians. Hair and beauty salons are also often keen to recruit apprentices, who will usually assist in the day to day running of the salon as well as providing some treatments.
For a few jobs, a degree is either a must, or will at least put you head and shoulders above the competition.
Cosmetic chemists need a science degree, generally in chemistry, microbiology or chemical engineering.
And, if you want to be a fashion photographer, journalist or work in PR, a related degree isn’t strictly necessary, but it will help. If you're interested in fashion design, you may need to do a foundation degree, HND or degree in fashion design.
Fashion and beauty blogs (and vlogs) are hot property and setting one up yourself is a great way to share your passion and start gaining some experience and making some contacts in the industry. You never know who might spot it!
You could also considering entering the Young Fashion Designer Awards for the opportunity to exhibit your current work.
Take a look at fashion and beauty job opportunities and work experience placements available now.
What fashion and beauty qualifications are available?
There should be plenty of opportunities to train on the job and build on your qualifications once you get working in the fashion and beauty industry. Joining a relevant professional organisation, such as the Chartered Society of Designers or the National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers, will give you access to career development options and networking opportunities.
If you're considering studying fashion or art and design at university, take a look at our advice on applying to art schools post.
Did you know these fashion and beauty facts?
Fashion designer Michael Kors designed his first piece of clothing when he was just five – it was his mother’s wedding dress. Which shows you’re never too young to start!
Secret Circus produces the most expensive jeans in the world at $1.3 million (yes, million!) a pop.
Between 800 and 900 million lipsticks are sold around the world every year.